Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of betraying the American people on Wednesday, saying he knowingly lied about the deadliness of the novel coronavirus in what amounted to a “dereliction” of his duty.
According to newly released recordings of interviews done in February for a book by journalist Bob Woodward, Trump acknowledged he knew how deadly and contagious the coronavirus was but played it down because he did not want to create a panic.
With weeks remaining until the Nov. 3 presidential election, the news about Trump’s comments again focused attention on the Republican president’s efforts to battle COVID-19 which Democrats say have been too little too late.
“He knew, and purposefully played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people,” Biden said in a speech in Michigan. He was visiting the battleground state, home to the US auto industry, to promote a new proposal to tax companies that move US jobs overseas.
“And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people,” Biden said.
“It’s a dereliction of duty, a disgrace,” he said.
Biden and Trump are ramping up travel in the final sprint to the election during a coronavirus pandemic that has made waging a traditional campaign all but impossible.
The United States has suffered the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world. Deaths topped 190,000 on Wednesday along with a spike in new cases in the Midwest with states like Iowa and South Dakota emerging as the new hotspots in the past few weeks.